Tauranga resident and long-term letter writer Robin Bishop shares her story of her battle with an aggressive stage 4 cancer.

A few months ago I wrote of my battle with an aggressive stage 4 cancer and my ongoing treatment with chemotherapy.

I feel that "battle" is not the right word for me to use right now, as a battle is a fight, a struggle, and the "battle" is being won, for now, not by me, but by the huge advancement in chemotherapy treatment.

It is the years of medical research which have gone into making the modern version of chemotherapy so easy, safe, effective, and painless to take and which is giving me much extra life.

The beginning of this saga for me was 18 months ago, when I had a constant feeling of being bloated. It seemed so irrelevant that I thought my doctor would send me packing with a warning that I was simply being a fussy eater.


However, he sent me for a test - and the result was a diagnosis of an aggressive genealogical cancer. The bloating was the presence of "ascites" or in layman terms "accumulation of fluid" in the abdominal cavity and is what happens at the stage 4 level.

I remember, very naively, asking what stage cancer went to and was told "stage 4".

Monday mornings for an hour or two were given over to receiving treatment at the Cancer Centre behind the hospital, and it was administered by my lovely nurse, Cathy, who was assigned to me on my first day of treatment.

Cathy is cheerful, competent and knowledgeable and we became very good friends. I have so much respect for her as I do for my oncologist.

Marker numbers are another part of my life and they indicate whether or not cancer is present. In the case of my particular cancer, a normal well woman will have a marker number of 35 and below. My highest marker number was 1430 and with chemotherapy it came down week by week to just 6.

At the end of my first round of chemotherapy in December 2015 I had three-monthly appointments with my oncologist and a blood-test to check on progress. About July my marker number eventually began to rise again.

After watching them rise even further, he suggested I could have more chemo but on a lesser regime and on this one I did not even lose my hair as I had on the first rounds of chemo.

I have now finished my second round of treatment and once again I am very well.

Cancer is not the death sentence it once was, and even with an incurable one like mine is, there is still much can be done to extend life, and it is a life with much quality to it.

I have many plans for this coming year, hopefully I will continue to work part-time, I will travel, I will continue my hobbies, I will go to the movies, I will drink some wine, I will laugh as much as I always did, and I will very likely also forget for much of the time that I have cancer.

The year will still include the three-monthly blood tests for my marker numbers and will probably include more treatment.

But it will also include living as normally as I did in the days before cancer became a part of my life.

I hope this gives some of you who may be facing this same road I am on some insight into what is ahead for you.

Life is good and for that I am very thankful.

Robin Bishop is a long-term Tauranga resident and regular letter writer.